AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

How to Balance School, Work and Life

Returning to college to earn or advance a degree is a big decision for busy professionals. Work, family and full social lives make every spare moment precious, but for many the accomplishment is worth the effort. AIU graduate Dennis Quiles returned to college to get his degree a full 25 years after leaving college right in the midst of a growing family and a demanding career. He completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees while travelling and working 8 to 10 hours each day.

In our recent Serious Talk Webinar on returning to school, Dennis reveals how he made time for both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree despite a packed schedule.

For Dennis, having access to online classes was the key to his success in completing two degrees. Here are some other strategies that can help you not only get started but stay successful while you are in college.

Set goals. Few people take on the work, expense and sacrifice their time for a degree “just because.” Think about what you want from your degree--a better job, more knowledge, respect from peers--and write down the steps you need to take to get there. If your ultimate goal is to get a promotion at work, make that your long-term goal. Short-term goals might be learning a certain subject thoroughly, getting an A in a class or asking your boss for more responsibility. Whenever you reach a goal, celebrate.

Make time. For students with full-time jobs and families, time is a valuable commodity. Use every minute wisely by following a schedule. You’d be surprised how much you can fit into your day if you just plan for it. The key to success with time management is to plan out all of your time — not just time spent studying or attending lectures, but family time, work events, workouts, sleep schedules and, most importantly, breaks to avoid burnout.

Pace yourself. By packing too much of the same thing into one weekend or one day, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed, lose focus, procrastinate and run out of time. Dennis Quiles took advantage of quietest time of day in his home — early in the morning — to get the bulk of his schoolwork finished. He also paced himself by using smaller increments of time — an hour after work here and there — to review papers, complete assignments and do research.

Get some space. Whether you are an online student with the world as your classroom or you attend a ground campus, set aside a place of your own for studying. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, take advantage of it, and keep all of your school files organized there. If home is noisy, busy and crowded, talk to your family about setting aside a space or some quiet time so that you can study. Consider investing in noise cancelling headphones that you can bring to the library, coffee shop or use at home.